Fish Fry-Day: a crispy fillet that’s perfect for Lent

There’s a subtle culinary dimension to one of the holiest seasons of the year: Lent, which began Wednesday, loves its fish and seafood dishes.

The Christian tradition of abstaining from meat of warm-blooded animals nudges the meat-eating faithful toward the sea for sustenance. And the possibilities are not simply nourishing – they’re delicious. 

How does one move beyond the basic fried, often bland fillets of Fish Fridays? 

So glad you asked. Here’s a simple, crispy fish that’s not basic at all. The recipe belongs to the chief cook at St. Cecilia in Atlanta. No, it’s not a church – it’s a restaurant. Chef Craig Richards’s recipe focuses on technique – the flavor is achieved in the frying process, not in seasoning the heck out of the fillet. 



Crispy Flounder with Lentils and Blood Orange 

Chef Craig Richards of Atlanta’s St. Cecilia restaurant shared this recipe with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He notes the recipe also would work well with sole. The trick to a crispy brown crust here is to pat dry the fillets with a paper towel. To prevent sticking, allow the fish to fry on one side until it releases easily, then turn the fillets. 

Serves 4 


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green part only 
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped carrot 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 
  • 1 1/4 cups dried green lentils 
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth, divided 
  • 4 (6- to 7-ounce) flounder fillets 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 2 blood oranges, cut in half and cut surface charred 
  • Charred leeks and tarragon sprigs, for garnish 

Make the dish: 

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil in over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add leeks, carrot and celery and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils and stir 1 minute. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until lentils are just tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. If liquid level gets too low and lentils are still not tender, add remaining stock in 1/4 cup increments until lentil are done. Taste for seasoning and keep warm. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat until it begins to smoke. Pat fillets dry, then carefully slip two fillets into skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Move to a plate and keep warm while sautéing the remaining fillets. 
  3. When ready to serve, divide lentils between warm serving plates and top with fillets. Serve with blood orange halves. 

Nutritional yield per serving: 529 calories (percent of calories from fat, 24), 60 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 82 milligrams cholesterol, 204 milligrams sodium.

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